For the first time in two years, Christians in the Iraqi town of Bartella celebrated Christmas. The small town was recently freed from ISIS, who had forced the Christians who lived there to flee their homes when they rose to power. The church had also been vandalized. However, this year, as CNN notes, hundreds left the camps where they had been living to return to the city, to celebrate mass and the Christmas holiday at a local church.
The priest overseeing the service said, “This is a message to the entire world that we Christians … are the inherent component of this country and we are staying.” Even a few U.S. soldiers joined the service.
The service culminated with a large cross replacing one that ISIS militants had destroyed when they took over.